Shivangini Academy of Arts’s Performances Kathakaar and Khidki


Dancers in the production “Khidki” Photos: Navin Mediwala

By Nandita Sharma

HOUSTON: We all know the Hellen Keller story. When Anne Sullivan entered Hellen’s life as a teacher, her mind was a blank slate. It was the teacher who worked tirelessly at filling it with the missing colors. From time immemorial, people have said that there are no real new ideas or problems. It is purely the way we approach them that makes the difference.   In Houston we are fortunate to have one such extraordinary teacher whose unique approach towards the art of teaching has made hundreds of children and adults fall in love with traditional Indian Arts like Kathak, Tabla, and Dholak.  Her name, synonymous with dedication, passion, and love for her students, is Shiva Mathur.


Dancers and Tabla showcase a technical piece of Kathak.

Shiva Mathur comes from a very illustrious family and her own grandmother, Smt. Shanthi Sahai ‘Nalini’ is widely known in Lucknow as a creative beacon, who intellectuals and art lovers flock to.  Being a poetess, a dance teacher, and a writer, Shanti Sahai made sure that Shiva Mathur had the best of teachers in all fields including Dholak, Tabla, Vocal, and Kathak. By the age of 16 she was already teaching in Lucknow. And that passion for teaching continues today in Houston where she now has 300 students under her tutelage.

Slum scene in “Khidki”

Slum scene in “Khidki”

Shivani, our daughter is now a fourth year Kathak student (classical North Indian dance form) with Mathur. This past weekend, Shivani and 250 other students of Mathur presented not one but two back to back performances – “Kathakaar” on Saturday, and “Khidki – The window” on Sunday.  These were a very special treat for connoisseurs of ‘Kathak’ – one of North India’s finest oldest, richest and absolutely stunning classical dance forms. The “Kathakaar” show featured Kathak choreographies and Tabla performances, and was interspersed with performances by very artistic ‘Kathakaars’ (storytellers) who creatively composed dances on short stories provided to them on the spot.   The dance drama production on Sunday, titled “Khidki – The Window”, was an exquisite drama written and directed by Shiva Mathur, showcasing the story of two girls in a slum and their journey towards achieving their dream – a true testament to the power of a dream and a passion for a better life.  Both the shows were vibrant with colorful costumes, beautiful sets, and students whose passion for performing was so very visible to everyone in the audience.  With the “Khidki” production Mathur entered the select group of artists who are script writers, composers, dance choreographers, and teachers.

Dancers performing to song “Des Rangila”

Dancers performing to song “Des Rangila”

Guests and VIPs at the events included Mac Flores from the office of Congressman Pete Olson, Consul General Parvathaneni Harish and his wife Nandita , Sugar Land Republican Chairman Mike Gibson and his wife Tina Gibson, Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre, State Representative Rick Miller and his wife, Dr. Virendra and Nalini Mathur, Dr. Durga and Sushila Agrawal, author and writer Megha Shah, Sunil Thakkar and his family from Masala Radio, Fort Bend Diversity Director Ilene Harper,  and several faculty and Principals from schools around the Houston area.   At the conclusion of the event, Mac Flores from the office of Congressman Pete Olson presented Mathur with a proclamation that read “As your representative in Congress, I am very proud to honor your culture and your traditions here today. I applaud your dedication to your heritage through dance and I celebrate this occasion with you”.  Consul General Harish complimenting Mathur in his speech very insightfully noted that “Your production today was very representative of the Guru-Shishya parampara  …. which is a lot more than just a student attending a dance school … “

    They say that a teacher comes into a student’s life, only when the student is ready to receive what the teacher can teach them. As the mother of a young child I remember praying that I would find a teacher who will not just teach my child an art form, but one who would over the years act as a role model and guide, maybe even fill in on areas where I may not be able to help.   Raising kids with a moral compass and an appreciation for our heritage is a challenge, they say  – but I no longer dread that for Shivani our daughter, because in Shiva Mathur, we do not have just a Kathak dance teacher, we have a guide and mentor, who sets the bar very high for all her students.